Polluter detectives in LA keep drivers honest between SMOGs

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The combination of electronic engine management systems and other emission controls has eliminated anywhere from 90-99% of noxious pollutants from modern cars. The problem is that these systems rely on an array of sensors to manage the fuel/air mixture, and when they fail emissions skyrocket. For several decades drivers, in California have had to get regular emissions checks before renewing their registration. Now drivers won't have to wait until their annual checkup, as the South Coast Air Quality Management District has a mobile emissions check van that evaluates cars remotely as they drive by.

The infrared and ultraviolet sensor equipped van parks on on-ramps and takes a picture of polluting cars as they pass by. A letter is sent to the car owner suggesting the car either be repaired or scrapped. There is also a volunteer program that will provide $500 toward repairs or $1,000 to scrap the car. Since the program started in March, 2,000 letters have been sent out. With 10% of vehicles producing over half of the pollution, the program is intended to catch people who are either cheating or making temporary repairs just to pass the annual test and get those vehicles off the road.

[Source: LA Times]

 

[via] Autoblog

2008 Honda Odyssey arrives with minor upgrades

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click above image for additional high-res images of the 2008 Honda Odyssey

One of my buds just bought his first minivan. He traded in his Nissan Maxima for a 2005 Honda Odyssey. That transition from sports sedan to minivan can be tough pill to swallow, but most enthusiasts we know consider the Odyssey a good compromise for being more attractive than most, as well as offering a powertrain and handling package that's sportier than the minivan mean. For 2008, Honda has dressed up the Odyssey with some styling tweaks, including a new six-sided grille and front bumper fascia. The interior has received new colors, textures and fabrics, as well. Bluetooth connectivity for cell phones is now available, as is a 4-way power passenger seat, rearview camera display in the rearview mirror and side mirrors that tilt down when in reverse. There are two engines available for 2008, both 3.5L V6s. The first is a SOHC VTEC motor that produces 244 HP and 242 ft-lbs. of torque. The second is a SOHC i-VTEC with Variable Cylinder Management, similar to the system used on the new 2008 Honda Accord's V6. VCM improves fuel economy of the 3.5L from 16/23 to 17/25, which isn't a huge jump, but may be appreciated by parent-run chauffeur services. I'll be emailing this post to my friend, just so he knows the Odyssey is still going strong despite some competitors (looking at you Ford and GM) have exited the segment.

[Source: Honda]

Continue reading 2008 Honda Odyssey arrives with minor upgrades

 

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[via] Autoblog

Lexus rolling out factory performance parts at SEMA

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click above image for high-res gallery of the Lexus IS-F

Toyota is the official sponsor of this year's SEMA Show in Las Vegas, and Lexus, its luxury division, will be making its first appearance in Sin City at the end of October. On hand will be the Lexus IS-F, a very high-performance version of the brand's smallest model. What better place then to also announce a new line of performance parts and accessories for Lexus? We have no idea what the performance parts will be, but will find out at a press conference in Las Vegas on October 30th. We're guessing a performance exhaust and air filter are a given, maybe a strut-tower brace, and if we're really lucky a TRD supercharger to make the 400 HP 5.0L V8 even more fierce.

Along with the IS-F and announcement of new performance parts, Lexus will also bring along nine project vehicles to the SEMA Show. We're also expecting the all-new Corolla, Matrix, a heavy-duty Tundra and convertible FJ Cruiser from Toyota to be present.

[Source: Inside Line]

Gallery: Lexus IS-F

 

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[via] Autoblog

Fed official apologizes for recommending imports in newsletter

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Domestic automakers may be losing market share, but it appears their clout is intact. The Department of Health and Human Services issued an apology for a recent newsletter that suggested only Japanese and South Korean vehicles in a list of 12 "green" vehicles for their 67,000 employees to buy. Domestic automakers took exception to the seemingly biased message, and the 15 Michigan members of the house wielded their power to get the HHS to apologize.

That all the vehicles listed in the HHS newsletter were of Asian origin doesn't bother us much at all, but the fact that a government department that admittedly has nothing to do with auto policy is "suggesting" that its workforce buys certain kinds of cars just pisses us off. This is the United States of America baby, viva la choice!

[Source: Yahoo via GM Inside News]


 

[via] Autoblog

Jeep ready to paint your house red

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When you've got a name as well established as Jeep, you hardly need to sell vehicles to turn a profit. You can get the Jeep name on all sorts of consumer merchandise, from a butched-up umbrella stroller to clothes and even bedding. There are more licensed products on the way, a few even making some kind of sense to tie into the Jeep brand. You will soon be able to park your Wrangler in a garage painted top to bottom, from walls to slab, with official Jeep colors. Not near home? A Jeep-branded GPS system will soon be out, and if you're not in a hurry to get back, you can stock up on officially-licensed camping gear. All of the tie-ins help sell Jeeps, or at least bolster the brand's visibility - think of it as a sleeper advertising campaign. Jeep fans will buy this stuff, and even non-Jeep owners will recognize the name and the cachet. You can even indoctrinate your kids into the Jeep brand with a vehicle that us grown-ups can't even get yet, the Hurricane. The concept-car-cum-Power-Wheels Hurricane is a hot item at Toys 'R Us, where the vehicle sells. Chrysler employees were recently treated to a display of all Jeep branded products at the company's headquarters. There were hundreds of items bearing the commonly recognized logo, with more in the pipeline. We're holding out for a new Grand Wagoneer, woodgrain ConTac paper on the flanks, and all.

[Source: The Firehouse]

 

[via] Autoblog

Land Rovers to have stop-start tech by 2008

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Hopefully the start/stop can be disabled for stuff like this


Automatic start-stop capability is continuing it's inexorable march through the European automotive fleet with a stop at Land-Rover. Beginning late in 2008 Land-Rover vehicles will get a start-stop system that shuts off the engine the vehicle is stationary. Land Rover marketing director Andy Griffiths says that the company is also developing a full hybrid system in an attempt to meet upcoming EU carbon dioxide emissions limits.

[Source: HeadlineAuto.co.uk]

 

[via] Autoblog

Toyota defends its defense of parallel hybrids

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Earlier this month, Toyota Executive Veep Kazuo Okamoto made news when he defended his company's pursuit of further developing its parallel hybrid system called the Hybrid Synergy Drive. He was specifically calling out GM's development of the first mass market series hybrid, the Chevy Volt. On Toyota's own Open Road Blog, Irv Miller, Group Vice President of Corporate Communications, came to the defense of his boss soon after. It was an editorial we missed at the time, but reading it this morning was an eye opener.

Miller makes a case for Toyota's support of parallel hybrids by saying that at this point the Volt is vaporware, while you can buy a Prius today. He notes that Volt engineers are only able to get about 10 miles of pure electric range from current lithium-ion batteries, far short of the 40 miles promised by GM. He also goes after the set up of a series hybrid, saying, "So - and we love this part - a series hybrid hauls around a gas engine that isn't available to directly propel the car."

There are no doubt engineers in this audience who will read Toyota's response and rip it to shreds, much like commenters have already done on the original post. We'll merely respond to two points, since we're not engineers. Toyota calling a series hybrid vaporware because there isn't one on the market today is bunk. We assume the Hybrid Synergy Drive was at one time in development, too. While there's certainly a chance the Volt may never happen (10% according to Bob Lutz), the fact that GM is already using the Volt in advertising and has been completely transparent with the car's development tells us that it will do whatever it takes to bring this car to market.

Continue reading Toyota defends its defense of parallel hybrids

 

[via] Autoblog

Citroen to unveil new C5 next month

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Citroen has already given us a taste of what to expect for its new C5 sedan with the unveiling of the C5 Airscape concept car at last week's Frankfurt Motor Show. The automaker is now planning to take the wraps off the real thing at a press event scheduled for the 18th of next month.

The car won't officially go on sale, however, until its world debut, most likely at the Brussels auto show in January. Citroen will release both a C5 sedan and wagon, but there's no word on whether a convertible version like the concept car will enter production. According to an inside source, product planners are conducting market research for an upmarket convertible that, if given the go ahead, could be on sale in 12 months time.

Some new technologies rumored to make it into the new C5 include a new traction control system, start-stop features and brake-energy regeneration. There could even be the brand's traditional hydro-pneumatic suspension or possibly a new air suspension set-up.

[Source: Automotive News - subs. req'd]

 

[via] Autoblog

Spy Shots: Jaguar XK-R with extra kick

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Now that Jaguar and Aston Martin are no longer officially related, the leaping cat feels free to pounce on its former corporate sibling. The current Jaguar XK-R isn't enough to really challenge cars like the Aston Martin Vantage V8 or Porsche 911, so Jag is cooking up a hotter version -- an XK-R-R?

With ECU and engine modifications, the forced breather should be good for more than 500 HP and a 180+ MPH top speed. With that kind of heat -- an 80+ HP jump over the current XKR and 120+ more than the Vantage -- the car will get to 60 in 4.5 seconds. It is expected to take cues and more from Jag's GT3 race car, yet while it is thought to get racing-style bucket seats and carbon fiber trim, it will still be appointed like a Jag. Outside, a new front air dam is the only change that has been spied so far.

[Source: Autogespot via Motor Authority]

 

[via] Autoblog

Three flavors of Nissan GT-R, orders began in Japan yesterday

It cometh. Dealers in Japan opened the sluices on GT-R orders as of yesterday. Pre-ordering will be possible until October 24, when the car is revealed at the Tokyo Auto Show. Caveat emptor: anyone who signs his or her name on an order form will not be allowed to cancel that order. You sign, you buy.

And the three varieties of GT-R are again confirmed, with dealers actually having sales material in hand listing models and specs. The rundown we know of is the standard model at 480 HP and $57,000, a V-Spec for $67,000, and an EVO-spec with 530 HP, 200 fewer pounds and a $94,000 tag. The home team -- Japan, that is -- begins receiving deliveries in December.

[Source: 7tune]

 

[via] Autoblog

Ferrari bringing folding hardtop to Detroit, set to do battle with V8 Vantage

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During Ferrari's press conference in Detroit this January, the Italian stallions will be pulling the wraps of a new 2+2 coupe-cabriolet, complete with a folding hardtop.

Built off a stretched version of the next generation F430's aluminum architecture, the "F149" 430 GT California will have a 450 HP direct-injected 4.3-liter V8 mounted up front, sending power to the rear wheels via Fezza's F1 "Superfast" sequential gearbox. A six-speed manual will also be an option when sales begin in late 2008.

The setup is designed to take aim at Aston Martin's V8 Vantage, making it the least expensive Ferrari in the exotic automaker's stable - around €130,000.

This is not, however, the rumored "Dino" model, as that particular coupe will have a 3.5-liter V6 mounted amidships and will be priced around €100,000 when it goes on sale in 2009.

[Source: 4Car]

 

[via] Autoblog

Bad brakes cause Jeep to recall 28k vehicles

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Those of you rolling in a new 2007 or 2008 Jeep Commander or Grand Cherokee, take note. Chrysler is recalling 28,755 vehicles due to front-brake calipers made out of gray iron, instead of ductile iron, which could cause the clamper to fracture and cease halting forward progress.

The recall affects models built between May 17 and July 13, and we'd expect Chrysler LLC to have letters in the mail as you read this. Currently, there have been no crashes as a result of the problem.

[Source: Detroit News]

 

[via] Autoblog

Spy Shots: BMW V-Class

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Winding Road has photos of what they say is BMW's new V-Series crossover. Expected to be built on the 5-series platform, the V-Sseries is rumored to be BMW's attempt to give buyers more interior space than the new X6, but more comfort and sportiness than the X5.

Engine choices should be similar to the 5-Series, with a 3.0L I-6 on the low end and, possibly, the 500i's 420 HP V8 on the top of the line V-Series. In between those two extremes could easily slot another I-6 and even one of BMW's diesel powerplants. All-wheel drive is another rumored option.

Chances the V will come here may well depend on U.S. reaction to the X6, which shares some lines and characteristics with the V. But if anyone has the ability to sell a minivan-like crossover here, it's BMW.

Check out Winding Road for more spy shots of this highly-disguised, baby-hauling BMW.

[Source: Winding Road]

 

[via] Autoblog

Project Gotham Racing 4 - game versus reality

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Project Gotham Racing 4 has the video game version of the question, "Is it real or is it Memorex?" They've created a split-screen video of the latest Gotham racer next to actual hi-def footage of the live cars churning through the streets of New York City. When it comes to the car scenes, even when you know which one is live and which is video, there's still the occasional flicker of doubt. Watching it, it's hard to believe we ever got excited about a game called Pong.

Thanks for the tip, zizzy!

[Source: Megatonik]

 

[via] Autoblog

An eyeful of new Fiat Grande Punto Abarth shots

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click above image to view our full gallery of Fiat Grande Punto Abarth pics

The Fiat Grande Punto Abarth officially goes on sale this month in Italy, and it will be available in other European markets in the months ahead. Fiat has released a number of new images (52!) showing what has become our absolute favorite hot hatch with Italian style to spare and enough grunt from its 150 HP engine to keep things interesting. The Grande Punto Abarth, however, is just the tip of the iceberg, as Fiat has spun off the Abarth label into its own company that will offer its own line of high performance hardware soon. First up is the Grande Punto Abarth, followed by Grande Punto Abarth SS, the 500 Abarth and 500 Abarth SS, and then we may see the Abarth line expand with its own unique models. In all, four Abarth models are scheduled to be unveiled by the end of 2008. Clearly Fiat's excited, and Europeans should be too. We in the U.S., however, are sulking because the likelihood Fiat will be selling cars in the U.S. anytime soon is nil.

[Source: Fiat]

Continue reading An eyeful of new Fiat Grande Punto Abarth shots

 

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[via] Autoblog

Spy Shots: Mercedes-Benz C-Class Sport Coupe back for round two

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While the previous generation Mercedes-Benz C-Class Sport Coupe proved to be little more popular in the U.S. than the old BMW 318ti, evidently enough hatch-happy Europeans bought it to justify a second edition. Now that the sedan and wagon versions are out and about, this largely camo-free coupe has been spotted. Much like the previous edition it looks like a truncated fast-back version of the sedan. We'll probably see the model in a non-matte finish no later than the next Geneva Motor Show and possibly sooner. It's interesting to note, however, that we understand the C-Class Sport Coupe will be based on the previous generation C-Class chassis and merely wear the nose of the new model.

[Source: World Car Fans]

 

[via] Autoblog

Mercedes' AMG tuning house coming with factory tour

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For many BMW fans, visiting the automaker's M performance division in Munich is akin to finding the Holy Grail, which is why the workshop's factory tour program has been a runaway success. Strangely, rival tuner AMG has been very slow to open its doors to the public.

All that could change, as new European delivery arrangements may give AMG customers a chance to visit the factory and see their cars being built. Management at the Affalterbach-based tuner is considering opening the doors to the factory to satisfy a growing desire from many of its customers to visit the premises. "We have been working on a factory tour in Affalterbach for awhile," revealed AMG's director of marketing and sales Mario Spitzner. "We are starting slowly because the demand would be more than we could handle."

Unlike BMW's M range, which is limited to a handful of cars, AMG offers a substantial number of cars, meaning getting a chance to go behind the scenes will likely entail dealing with long waiting lists. or could be limited to customers ordering only the most expensive models.

[Source: Edmunds]

 

[via] Autoblog

LeMons at Thunderhill raceway is on!

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Mr. Lamm, the mad man behind the 24 Hours of LeMons, did a mass mailing to let all and sundry know that bad things do happen to good racetracks. The expansion of the 2007 LeMons series (yes, that's right, we've officially called it a "series") continues, with a fourth event schedule for the weekend of December 29 and 30.

The good news is that the dates are booked at Thunderhill raceway, between Sacramento and Redding, CA; the bad news is that it won't be a full 24-hour enduro. Even though T-hill is located in the middle of nowhere, its neighbors weren't too hot on the idea of hearing a bunch of crap-can cars running around the track in the wee-hours of the morning. Instead, they'll stick with their Altamont routine and split it up into two days. However, the pits are open all night and the track offers RV hookups, so Lamm and the LeMons crew are planning a host of activities, including pit-bicycle demo derbies, movies and a pseudo-New Year's Eve party.

We may or may not be on hand to cover the event, but we'll keep you posted of any future developments. In the meantime, you can check out the 24 Hours of LeMons site for more details.

 

[via] Autoblog

VIDEO: Bose suspension in action

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Bose is most commonly known for its stereo systems and other home entertainment gear. The truth is that the company holds tons of patents, which it licenses to shrewdly fund research and development in a wide variety of areas, seemingly following the whims of Dr. Bose himself. The company has been working on electromechanical suspension systems for years now - I was even passed by one of their tricked out Lexuses while on my way up the hill to their Framingham, MA headquarters once. The video we've embedded after the jump shows the system in action, and compares it with a conventionally suspended LS400 with nifty split-screen footage. The results are dramatic, but we're curious if the cars were being driven at the same speed through the course. Be sure to watch to the end, where engineers let loose and jump the thing.

Thanks for the tip, fooman!

Continue reading VIDEO: Bose suspension in action

 

[via] Autoblog

Elastic steel makes your car safer by stretching it out

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The Max Planck Institute for Iron Research and the German Steel Institute have developed a variety of steel that strengthens as it elongates. In the event of a car crash, the steel is ductile enough to absorb impact energy, but remains strong enough to protect occupants.

Called Twinning Induced Plasticity steel, the secret is that the steel passes the deformation energy down its length and to other parts, which also deform. The benefit is that with more area available to share the impact load, there is less that can reach the car's occupants. The institute mentions using the steel in bumpers and side doors, the most vulnerable areas in a crash.

Improved passenger safety is always good. Yet with more structures to inclined to deform, such a development would also seem to need new inspection techniques after a crash to make sure everything is still safe. Also, while the fracture point of the pictured steel is listed as 1,250-percent of elongation, it would need to be established how much elongation-before-fracture was still safe.

Thanks for the tip, Ben!

[Source: Physorg]

 

[via] Autoblog

VW August '07 sales up 12% over previous year

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To them that have, more is given. Europe's biggest car maker just posted the biggest month-on-month increase in its entire history. The People's Car and its family brands did 12.1-percent more business in August 2007 than in August 2006, getting 286,000 vehicles into new homes.

For the year, VW sales are up 8.3-percent over 2006, with 2.4 million Golfs et al finding new homes. The numbers are lead by emerging market gains, with Brazil up 30-percent, China up 27.4-percent, and Argentina doing 21.3-percent more business. Volkswagen is expected to sell more than 3.5 million cars this year.

[Source: Just Auto, sub req'd]

 

[via] Autoblog